Tag Archives: reading

The lost art of boredom… and the books to invoke it..

The Reso - A Sixties Childhood

Boredom is a wonderful and creative thing. When there are no expectations, the mind becomes clear for peregrinations in open skies.

When thoughts and speculations are allowed to meander some original thinking is developed, as well as an awful pile of meaningless dross.

I perfected the art of boredom as a primary school child in the 1960s. I could spend hours staring at the sky or the sea just mind wandering. Growing up on the coast gave me a massive watery canvas on which to work and a chant of waves to induce the trance.  Mostly I was just wandering, but sometimes, I fleetingly viewed a nugget of an idea which was streaked with genius.

Beyond the Reso

Short of a coastline, the best way to induce this trance like state is through books.

How I used boredom to profitable end, and the trouble it got me into, are outlined in my Reso trilogy of books. Some indication of their enduring popularity can be gleaned from the fact that the library in my hometown no longer stocks them as they are the most stolen volumes from their shelves- that is the ultimate in back handed compliments. Only the ‘I read your book, it was wonderful and hilarious and brought back those times so well. We’ve passed it round the family and all agree it is a superb read!’… you are allowed to buy more than one book… you could give it as a Christmas or birthday present for heaven’s sake!

The Reso begins the story in the 1960s, Beyond the Reso tells the seventies tale of secondary school, and Resolution focusses on the university years and beyond.

I had to use a pen-name as David Hughes is perhaps the ultimate beige name in Wales – several hundred of them are already in print! I chose the surname of a particularly fondly remembered teacher, John Ambrose, and my mum’s maiden name. The name has garnered hoots of derision over the years, but it tends to be memorable.

The books are particularly suitable for a school age readership from upper primary onwards and deal with many of the trials and tribulations of school, as well as the transition to the world of aspirations and careers beyond school. 

They are suitable for anyone who has had a childhood, particularly those who can’t remember it, or those who can.

The books are available to order from all good bookshops, or online here  

Resolution

 

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Thoughts on VE Day from my Uncle Glyn…

I was amazed to receive this today from my Uncle Glyn Conway. It was written for his grandchildren.

As well as being a beautiful testimony of VE Day in the community of the Geufron in the town of Rhyl, it also shows two images of my mum which I have never seen before. In the first image I did not even recognise the girl as my mum! In the second if was unmistakably like her.

Twenty seven years later I was sitting on those same seats behind the Pavilion, shivering with my girlfriend Lesley and looking out on a grey sea. Coincidentally, Lesley’s mum was part of the Hagin family who had also enjoyed that VE day party!

Thank you for sharing this Uncle Glyn. x

This week is the 75th Anniversary of VE Day and the ending of the Second
World War in 1945. I thought you would be interested in some of my
recollections of that time since most people are now too young to remember
these events. I just asked Gran/Granny Jan could she remember some of
these things and she said ‘No of course not. I wasn’t born until 1947!’

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I was born in 1938 so I was still a baby of 18 months when war broke out.
The photo above shows me in the pram soon after the outbreak of war with
my eldest sister Ceridwen and my brother Eddie. It was taken on the Rhyl
Prom. My brother has his bucket and spade so we must have been on a
beach outing. Behind are a group of soldiers who were stationed at an army
barracks near Rhyl.


I remember the great excitement by the public that the war had ended and
that in many families like myself people who were serving their country in the
military would soon be home again. My eldest brother Elwyn serving in the
Royal Marines came home from Germany and my sister Doris in the ATS the
Women’s section of the Royal Army returned from Belgium. My mother I
remember used to encourage me to eat my carrots as they would help my
eyesight. It was said that pilots during the war did the same. My Dad was too
old to be called up but he did his bit for the country by being a soldier in the
First World War twenty years earlier. We still had to wait another three
months before complete world peace when Japan surrendered after the
dropping of the atomic bomb in that country. That day in August 1945 was
known as VJ Day (victory over Japan).


Like all other schoolchildren I received a special souvenir illuminated
certificate signed by King George V1, the father of our Queen Elizabeth II.
Special street parties were arranged for the children and I remember sitting
on chairs from our homes around a long table in the street and enjoying
sandwiches, cakes and jelly served by our mothers and other relatives. One
strange thing I remembered was an argument in the street by two families. I
can’t remember the reason for it but young as I was I did think at the time it
was the very opposite of what the party was all about!


Cinemas showed how the war ending was celebrated all over the country and
how children who had been sent from cities to the country as refugee children
for their own safety were allowed to return to their families. At the end of all
cinema performances everybody was expected to stand for the National
Anthem before leaving though some of us children tried to escape before it
was played to quickly get back to our games such as playing football, cricket,
marbles, rounders, conkers, hop scotch or swimming in the sea. One of my
favourite games was playing soldiers at war but it was always difficult to get
my friends to be persuaded to be German soldiers! My brother brought back
a German soldier’s helmet which for many years was placed at the top of our
garden shed.


This is me at about the end of the war outside our house – together with
Ceridwen, the same sister who you saw pushing my pram in the other photo.
During the war everyone had to do something to help the war effort and she
worked for the National Laundry in Rhyl.

 

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The VE Day party was held near our local Air Raid Shelter which had been
built for people to escape into if there was a bombing raid. We were not
bombed in Rhyl though a German aircraft involved in the bombing of
Liverpool crash landed nearby I remember. My brother Tim served as a fire
watcher in case of raids by the Germans. I still have his badge. I remember
various concrete bunkers with small square openings were dotted about the
coast in which soldiers could defend the country should German Landings
happen. These together with the Air Raid Shelters were a feature of the
landscape for many years after the war.


All these memories are in my mind at this special time of commemoration.
Things gradually got back to normal and whilst life was difficult during the war
years, it made us thankful for the things we took for granted. It’s a bit like this
lockdown period; things will improve and we all look forward to brighter days
ahead.

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The Joy of Books…

Amidst a week of global uncertainty, one positive note for me … both my education based books are in the best sellers list, Future Proof Your School on Amazon, particularly the Kindle version, and Re-Examining Success in Blackwells the education bookseller.

Perhaps some teachers inexplicably have some more time on their hands at the moment?

The Reso trilogy continues to bubble along in anticipation of great sales when the feature film / TV series is released… Unfortunately, after ten years, we still don’t have a firm release plan for that, nor a production come to that. However, waiting in the wings are some very talented people keen to make that happen.

Writing books is, apart from a few exceptions, seldom a way to find a fortune, but I’m glad I’m ahead of the curve – the average number of books sold by all the titles published in the year in the UK is 18 copies. Given that the publisher usually gives you five copies, that is not a high hit rate. I must have reached more than 19 with all my titles to date!

 

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A dampening note for potential writers…

 

Me aged 10

 

I have often been exasperated by the way booksellers classify my books. They tend to work to set parameters and the Reso can easily fit into several categories, so in some book listings it appears as fiction, young adult, in others as general fiction. I’ve even seen it in a section on social issues, young people!

In truth, all of these are technically correct. Others would be equally appropriate such as : fiction: Wales, fiction: historical (it is disconcerting to realise that what appears to you as your short life to date, is now generally considered as an historical timespan!) fiction: the sixties.

Unfortunately the way a book is classified can also have an impact on sales because readers tend to concentrate on the sections they know and will never find books in other sections, unless by recommendations. This is what makes recommendations so powerful and valuable. Thank you so much to all those people who took the trouble to write something on a website about how they enjoyed the books, it is the biggest compliment you can pay to an author and keeps me positive and writing.

A back-handed compliment which really frustrates me is the reader who tells me that they enjoyed the book immensely, and that they have passed it round the family and everyone else enjoyed it immensely as well! I’m not looking to make my fortune from writing, so few people do, but I would like some recompense for the hundreds of hours spent researching, writing, re-drafting and publishing the books. If you love a book, any book, try and encourage the author a little more by buying a couple of copies for birthday or Christmas presents.

Regarding making my fortune from writing, a few statistics will soon disabuse that notion. If you take all the fiction books published in the UK in a single year it amounts to almost a million. The average number of copies sold per book is 18! That means from JK Rowling, who sells millions, down to me who sells a few less, 18 is the number of copies that the average book sells.

There are few fortunes to be made in publishing your writing – so it is best to write because you enjoy doing so or because you think you have something important to say about humanity. I am in the first camp.

The top selling books tend to come from established writers with agents, big publishing houses and massive marketing budgets. There are also the best sellers from ‘celebrities’ ghost written for them to give them another income stream, and promoted shamelessly on television chat shows. Not that I’m bitter!

For the rest of us, it is rather like the lottery… you have to be in it to win it, but the chance of making a living, let alone a fortune from writing, is very remote indeed. I console myself with the thought that when I die, something will live on beyond me and will consistently fail to provide an income stream for the beneficiaries of my Will.

Having originally gone through a publisher to have a professional endorsement of my writing, I made the decision to self-publish through a company called Lightning Source, part of the Ingram Group. This allowed me to cut costs and to take out the publisher from the trough. Even so, I receive about £1.40 in pounds sterling for every book I sell, the rest is accounted for from set up and production costs.

There is a line of reasoning that suggests you should set the book cost level as low as possible so as to maximise sales. £5 pounds is often seen as a critical price point for fiction books, which is why so many retail at 4.99. However, this assumes that you have a budget to promote your book so that it can compete in the crowded £4.99 market. I don’t have a marketing budget. I am in the Catch 22 situation of knowing that to maximise book sales I need to market the book but I can’t market the book until I have generated enough sales to justify a marketing budget, which I can’t do until… round and round it goes!

That leaves this blog and sites such as Linked In on which to promote the books. The secret here is to segment the market by exploiting the different categories a book will appear in. My books are timebound to the sixties, the seventies and the eighties respectively so I would do well to find niche markets for such writing. Similarly my books have a Welsh setting and there are active Welsh communities overseas to which my writing is recounting their youth, or making a wider cultural connection.

In this context, no-one has been more helpful than Ceri Shaw and the team at Americymru and Eto magazine for bringing my work to a large expatriate community in the United States and Canada. The Welsh appear to be great networkers so that the Americymru connection has led to Australian, New Zealand and South African sales – just leaving the Patagonian market to crack!

There is support for Welsh writers in the form of bursaries and writing camps under the auspices of Literature Wales, but these, quite rightly, focus on writers writing in Wales and debut authors. I wish I had known that when starting out on my debut book!

For the most part this has been a dismal article of trials and tribulations, so I feel I must end on a positive note. Nothing quite prepares you to have people share their memories with you and tell you that you brought back to life things half-remembered or forgotten.

My favourite reader comment was from a Principal of a Welsh primary school. He could not have pleased me more when he said, ‘I see a lot of young Dylan Thomas in your writing.’ I assumed he was referring to stylistic qualities and not plagiarism!

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Friends in high places…

 

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